They say what you can measure, you can manage… and as someone who has at least has a passing interest in productivity, I know this means I need to measure how I’m spending my time.
I know to some of my self employed friends, tracking time can feel an awful lot like working for ‘the man’. Honestly, I felt that way for a long time. I’d try to keep, then eventually get overwhelmed by spreadsheets. I then tried tracking only billable hours, not a complete picture but better than nothing.
For the past 6ish months, when it came time to bill clients I would go through my spreadsheet, Kassie’s spreadsheet, John’s spreadsheet, and Leslie’s spreadsheet to tally totals then invoice the client… or make a note to do more next month. It was kind of making me insane. So I asked everyone to switch to Toggl, a time management system that works with Google (or you can also create a free standing account) built on a ‘freemium’ model- meaning x amount is free but after, you pay.
Like any good leader, I tried to do what I was asking those who worked with me to do. And tracking my time for these last two months has taught me some things.
1. Clients that I thought were taking a lot of time were just taking up mental energy.
I think we all have these things in our life that we perceive as taking a lot of time but then when you actually look back, it was like 15 minutes. Toggl-ing helped me keep track of not who I thought was taking up a lot of time but who actually was.
2. Checking email takes a lot of my time… and I wonder if it could take less.
Above, according to Toggl, is how much time I’ve spent on email/project management.. this week.
Despite checking my email twice a day (except Wednesdays which is my email cleanout day), I realize I spend a lot of time checking email and putting things from email (or phone call) into our project management system.
3. I spend less on our own marketing stuff than I’ve projected.
What’s nice about all of us sharing a project though is I see just because I’m not spending time on it, doesn’t mean other people aren’t.
4. It’s for now… and later.
This system over time will help me be more fair with clients, and us, about how long things we do really take. So not only is it going to save ME time with billing now but it’ll help us estimate projects, distribute resources, etc. in the future.
5. I get to see when my Breaking Even coworkers are active.
Like any group of people, we all have patterns. I can see for example John likes to log in Saturday mornings, which means if I am on chat at that time, I can probably catch him.
Am I stalking people with Toggl? No, but it does help me to know what work patterns people prefer. I can also note when I have been particularly productive… and attempt to copy the variables that day that made it so useful.
6. We need an internal system we all agree on.
Yeah, we’re still figuring it out. Some of us aren’t putting things into projects, some of us have accidentally duplicated projects. Any new software has a learning curve, I just appreciate that everyone is willing to use it.
So I will say, if you decide to track your time, the results will surprise you. And possibly delight you. I know my time with Toggl so far has done both.